PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH

September 28, 2002

The Bush Doctrine: Unrestrained empire building

James Petras
Rebelión

The Bush Doctrine set out in his "U.S. National Security Strategy" speech ( September 20, 2002 ) promotes a "single sustainable model for success" – the United States through unlimited, unilateral, offensive ( "pre-emptive" ) wars. While couched in the language of "defense" and "liberty" the Bush doctrine is an extreme departure from the previous Truman doctrine of "containment" ( limiting Soviet influence ), and even the Reagan doctrine of "roll back", (reversing Soviet influence). The Bush doctrine is based on undefined conspiratorial enemies "shadowy networks of individuals" who "overlap" with states and who are planning an "imminent" attack, based on dangerous technologies.

The scope and depth of political threats by Bush encompass the whole world, exactly the target of imperial policy – global conquest.

In most of his speeches – and those of Rumsfeld and the rest of the imperial gang – Bush makes clear to his listeners the imperialist starting point of U.S. politics: " Today, the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and political influence… we seek …to create a balance of power that favors human freedom" (read U.S. empire ). By definition any country – big or small – which fails to accept or support U.S. imperial conquest becomes an enemy: the U.S. will persuade countries to support U.S. empire building "by convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities." Washington's violent and vitriolic attacks on German Chancellor Schroeder's opposition to a U.S. war against Iraq is a recent example.

Washington's totalitarian vision of world conquest through offensive wars, is defended by extremely irrational logic: "weak states…can pose as great a danger to our national interest as strong states." Afghanistan and Iraq did not bomb the U.S. – it was the other way around.

The Bush Doctrine speaks of " emerging threats linked to dangerous technologies" and cites 9/11. The hijackers used $2 dollar plastic box cutters -- $38 dollars of high technology – to seize airliners and crash them into the Towers and the Pentagon.

The Bush doctrine does not target active terrorists with weapons intent on causing harm. It plans to destroy "plans" and "emerging threats". "Plans" refers to discussions, ideas, debates – not to actions or even the securing of weapons. In other words, U.S. destruction of "emerging threats" means license to assassinate any "radical" associated with "dangerous technologies" – watch out what you say when you are shaving.

More seriously, the Bush doctrine states that threats to "economic freedom" – the failed neo-liberal economic system – is one of the key values which the U.S. will militarily defend through an offensive war. This part of the doctrine has specific relevance for Latin America where U.S. "economic freedom" has devastated the lives and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people. Instead of recognizing how "economic freedom" in Latin America has led to poverty, authoritarianism and insecurity, the Bush doctrine reduces "regional conflict" to a problem with "drug cartels" and "terrorists and extremist groups" and refers to U.S. military intervention in Colombia as a model. The resurgence of popular social and electoral movements in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and elsewhere which reject U.S. domination and its client states puts the lie to Bush's assertion that "in the Western Hemisphere we have formed flexible coalitions with countries that share our priorities, particularly Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Colombia." Below the level of certain "foreign ministries", the great majority of Latin Americans reject U.S. priorities – as the 10 million Brazilians who voted against ALCA, the majority of the Mexican Congress which rejects support for the U.S. war against Iraq, and the several hundreds of thousands who joined a general strike against the Uribe/IMF austerity plan demonstrated.

The Doctrine speaks to consultation, allied cooperation and freedom – yet in the same document it makes over a dozen assertions of the "right" to unilateral action. It speaks to "allied cooperation" yet Washington venomously attacks France and Germany, NATO allies, for not supporting the war. The Doctrine talks of "consultation" yet it rejects the near unanimous voice of the United Nations supporting the return of weapons inspectors. The Doctrine claims to support an "independent and democratic Palestine" yet abstains from a United Nations resolution calling on Israel to desist from bombing Arafat's headquarters.

The Bush Doctrine combines the rhetoric of freedom and coalition building, and consultation and peace with the preparations for war, unilateral action and conquest. The Bush Doctrine explicitly warns European competitors and critics; Russia and China not to challenge U.S. efforts to build a world empire. The Doctrine warns China's leaders to make the right "choices about the character of their state" and to avoid "pursuing advanced military capabilities". To the Russians and Europeans the Doctrine "reaffirms the essential role of American (sic ) military strength. We must build and maintain our defenses (sic ) beyond challenge." A warning directed explicitly at the "renewal of old patterns of great power competition." The Bush Doctrine goes beyond flaunting U.S. military power as a form of political blackmail to competitors, it is the justification for a series of wars, each built around the explicit promise "that offense is the best defense". The Doctrine's extremism is found in its embrace of offensive wars, and its explicit commitment to, not only defend the current boundaries of the Empire though client regimes, but to extend the geopolitical, military and political boundaries to conquer and exploit new " strategic regions".

What has been the outcome of Washington's extremism, its irrational war mongering and paranoiac threats"? Because of Shroeder's defiance of Washington and because of Rumsfeld's vituperative attack, he won the election. In Bolivia, the U.S. Ambassador's intervention in the Presidential elections, doubled the popular vote for the anti-imperialist MAS Party. Washington's threat of unilateral war against Iraq has aroused greater opposition in the streets, parliaments and UN than any event in recent history. Out of 11 top officials in the Bush Administration dealing with Latin America, 8 are Cuban exiles – profoundly hostile to Cuba. Yet 700 U.S. business, agricultural producers and politicians participated in the Food Fair in Havana and the U.S. Congress narrowly failed to end the travel ban. While Bush prepares for war, recent polls show that two out of three U.S. citizens think the domestic economic issues are more important than the war. The ultra-imperialist policies enunciated in the Bush doctrine are a real threat to all of humanity. Apart from Israel and its lobby in the U.S. and the extreme warlords in the Government, there is limited support for the Bush Doctrine and the invasion of Iraq largely because of personal fear that the war will have a catastrophic impact on the economy and provoke new and greater violence. It is important to criticize and reject the immediate threats posed by the Bush Doctrine but it is also important to recognize and oppose the imperialist system and militarist governing class which sustains it.